Contact Victor Williamson with your questions about simulator based experiential education programs for your school.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Fortuna and the Fates. The Space Center's Nemisis. And Other Space Center News.

Hello Troops,
I’ve got an unusual request to send out to our faithful blog readers. Don’t think I’ve lost my timid grasp on reality and don’t think I’ve converted to the dark arts when I ask this one thing....... how do I break the spell of three black cat crossings?

A black cat darted in front of me two weeks ago on my walk to work. It ran into the road, stopped, and watched me pass before going on its way. I thought nothing of it, except to remember a passing black cat meant bad luck. Not being of the suspicious kind, and not having a pinch of salt to toss over my shoulder to break the feline curse, I lodged the uneasiness into my brain’s X File and changed musical selections on my ipod.

Later that afternoon the same black cat appeared in the road on my walk home. It darted right in front of me. The whole thing was repeated the next day making a total of four black cat encounters. I felt and smelt a change in the air. The morning’s cool was scented with the smell of stale bread.

The Fates on Olympus High were bored and the Space Center was their remedy. Don't you hate being the Fates cure for boredom? I know we aren't the only ones they like to pester.

“OK Fortuna, let's see if we can work this out,” I said in sincerity. “Our small string of good luck shouldn’t have caught your eye. Look at everyone else that's had a long trail of success lately. The stock market has gone up. Play with them. Look at the Olympics! Many of those athletes are blessed with good luck. Wouldn’t they be better amusement for your scheming than a collection of unremarkable mortals in Pleasant Grove Utah with a few space ship simulators? Hardly worthy of your time, is it?”

The smell took a more acidic smell. I knew we’d had our chips. The Fates, like the fictional Death Eaters, were swarming. The trumpets from Olympus High were sounding the alert to gather the Gods. Fortuna was entertaining and this was a show not to be missed.

The next Tuesday I woke with a high fever and strep throat. The first card was played. I went to work, called my Doctor and pushed through the day rationing my swallowing.

The field trip arrived. We were one flight director short. An alarm clock failed to ring, or so we were told. I had a Galileo crew and no one to take the mission. A second card was played. Bracken Funk, a mere mortal with super human characteristics, was there to help in the Voyager. He’d had his gall bladder removed three days earlier and was living on a pain killers. I told him he would have to jump in and fly the Galileo. He jumped to his feet and went into action, clutching his side all the while.

I struggled through my crew's training, then started the mission. Part way through Midnight Rescue, just as the crew beamed the repairman off the satellite, the Voyager’s main projector bulb blew out. The large Tactical Screen went black. I heard the third card hit the table. Fortuna was proud of what she’d accomplished in just a few short hours. I ordered the spare projector pulled from storage. It was quickly mounted and the mission progressed. The crew was unaware of any problem. I told them, using the cover of my Tex character, that the intruder blew out the Tactical screen with his phaser. It fit perfectly into the story.

At the end of the mission the principal entered the control room.
“Two things,” she said irately. “One, I found this card out on the carpet.” She tossed the fourth card onto the bench beside me. “Clever,” I thought. The Fates used the principal to do their dirty work.
“Secondly, I’m assuming this is yours,” she said producing one of the Magellan’s Star War’s Blasters. She politely chewed me out for leaving it out so one of the school’s students could find it. She reminded me of the school’s ban on all types of weapons. Normally that isn’t a problem. Our phaser looks like phasers, not any kind of real weapon, but the Magellan's phasers are dark and could be mistaken for something sort of real, and I mean sort of with a stretch of the imagination. I apologised and promised it wouldn’t happen again.

A day later my Lincoln Battlestar’s “Service Engine Soon” light came on and the engine started doing funny things. A mechanic described it as ‘chugging’ the last time it happened. I popped the hood to see what my mechanically useless eyes could find. There, near the something or another, I found a fifth playing card lodged tightly near the battery. Its removal changed nothing. It was just a memento from my band of Olympic admirers that I hadn’t been forgotten. Luckily I walk to school, so I left the car in the garage. Mrs. Houston’s son Matt came to pick it up to work on it.

And now we fast forward to today. For a reason unknown to any of us, Fortuna and the Fates lost interest in us for a couple of days. Things at the Center were fairly normal until this afternoon.

The phone range at 1:00 P.M. It was a dad wanting to confirming his son’s 2:30 P.M. mission in the Voyager. I told him the Voyager already had a 2:30 P.M. mission booked by another group. That’s when it all hit the fan. Of course, according to them, it was our fault the reservation was wrong. I had a mother fit to be tied and a crying boy heard loudly and clearly over the phone. I was sure she’d written the time incorrectly in her planner but arguing the point was pointless. I went to Bracken, my miracle worker, and asked if he would be gracious enough to stay this evening and run a special mission just for their group. He said yes. I looked down and found the Jack of Hearts on my planning book. I took the card, ripped it into dozens of pieces and tossed them into the trash. I know you’re thinking that was bold and foolish thing to do but it was done, the Fates be damned.

At 3:00 P.M. the ships were well into their afternoon missions. In the school's front door appeared another group. The mother apologized for being 30 minutes late. They’d driven down from Bountiful for a birthday party and had gotten lost in American Fork. I told her she didn’t have a reservation. We we already had a group in the Odyssey. I checked the reservation book. She wasn’t there. Her son explained he emailed a reservation on February 3rd. He admitted he hadn't gotten a confirmation. I showed them an email I sent telling him the Odyssey wasn’t available. He said he didn’t get the email. There was nothing I could do for this group. They left very disappointed. Many of the boys were angry, considering their Saturday was ruined with all the travel time from Bountiful to Pleasant Grove and back. It was Fortuna’s sixth card.
“Well played, well played,” I mumbled to myself as the group left.

The seventh card struck half way through the Voyager’s 2:30 P.M. mission. The left Security Computer failed in the middle of the mission. It was a frantic rush to get that computer swapped out with a spare during the few minutes between the Saturday afternoon mission and the special mission Bracken was running for the upset earlier group. We got the computer in place shielded by a sheet of black plastic when it became apparent it wasn’t seeing the network. After several minutes we realized I’d not plugged the ethernet cord into the computer. We took the desk apart, connect the ethernet cord and put it all back together again while the crew trained for their mission.

Fortuna’s final card for the day hit the school instead of the Space Center. At 5:30 P.M. Roger, the school’s custodian, showed me the school’s large walk in refrigerator’s compressor was bad. The temperature in the fridge was 55 degrees! All the food for next week’s school lunches would spoil. We spent an hour on possible solutions, finally settling on moving as much of the food into the school's side by side refrigerators. They are at the school as I type working on other solutions.

I’d had enough of Fortuna’s cards. I drove home. The phone was ringing as I walked into the kitchen. It was Bracken.
“This is Bracken. The Voyager’s sound system just died in mid mission. What do I do now?”
I sat in my chair. “So, this is how we are playing this out,” I mumbled. I told Bracken to swap mics and cables with another ship. He did. The sound system was resurrected.
It is now 8:00 P.M. on Saturday night. We are done for the week. I’m waiting to hear from Bracken on the day’s final report.

I’m hoping the Fates and Fortuna will take next week and realize we are all such small fish in the grand scheme of things and leave us alone. Someone else - perhaps even you - deserve their attention. I wish them on you. In fact, as I close this post, I’m going to leave my laptop open to my email contacts page. Perhaps your name will tickle their fancy. Beware of black cats and be cautious if the smell around you resembles moldy bread. If so, don’t call me! Pass it forward my friend. Pass it forward.

Mr. Williamson

P.S. I must thank the following for going above and beyond the call of duty this week and saving everyone’s bacon.

Bracken Funk. What can I say. He’s a trooper, working right out of surgery. An inspiration to everyone at the Center.

Alex Anderson. Great Set Director and all around member of the Indispensable Club.

Jon Parker. Another member of our illustrious Indispensable Club. He is always willing to stay and do whatever needs to be done to keep the Center up and running AND he always finds time to keep my water bottle full of ice cold water. Thanks Jon.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Space. The Passion and Focus of My Life

Hello Troops,

I remember Julie well. She is an exceptional student and lifetime fan of the Space Center. She wrote this essay for her Honor's Inquire Class and sent it along to me to share.

I want to thank Julie for her kind words, and praise her for her goals and dedication to the exploration of Space. Space is the final frontier. It is our future. It draws us to it. You feel its appeal every time you step outside and stare into the night sky wondering what's out there and if they know we are here.

The Space Center does its part using science and science fiction to inspire people to dream big then achieve. The future begins in our imaginations. Our goals is to get those dreams and ideas out of our minds and into the real world using education and good old hard work.

And Now Julie's Essay...

Space = The Passion and Focus of My Life

Julie Anna Sanchez

Ever enchanted by the beauty of the sky, my life has taught me to dream of beyond. From some of my earliest memories of watching the stars at night, to the time when I discovered my passion, to my quest to become a rocket scientist, I have focused myself upon the deep beauties and mysteries that space holds for me.

I can remember that as I was growing up, my parents would take me out of the city to look at the sky where there is little light pollution to block out the stars. I was enchanted by the sky even then, and on long trips in the car at night, I would squish my head as close to the window as possible in order to watch the sky as we drove. I would look for shooting stars, and I always made a wish on the first star that I saw each night.

In my early childhood, I was able to visit the Hansen Planetarium in Salt Lake City. I loved watching the productions about the universe, and the museum upstairs was my favorite part of the experience because I was able to interact with science on a personal level. I have a natural ability to understand math and science. My parents tell me that I learned my multiplication tables when I was three years old; they were trying to teach them to my older brother and I just picked them up by watching them practice with him. Math and science were always my favorite subjects, and I couldn’t get enough of them.

In the fifth grade, my school was privileged to take a field trip to the Christa McAullife Space Education Center located in Pleasant Grove, Utah. The Space Center is a place where children are put into Star Trek type simulators and they set off on a “dangerous” mission. It is the most interactive learning environment I have ever seen; we learned about space, ethics, hard work, responsibility, current events, and teamwork all at once. I became enthralled with the Space Center and returned for summer camps and overnighters as often as time and money would allow. My experience as a 5th grade Damage Control Officer on the bridge of a starship was the turning point of my life. Before my visit to the space center, I was a nerdy child who liked math and science. After my visit to the space center, I was a gifted child whose life ambition was to do something in the space field. I had an outlet for all my hopes and dreams. I reached for the stars and the moon with the belief that one day I would touch them. I had found my passion.

Space rapidly became my focus, even approaching the level of an obsession. I watched, read, or viewed as much material as I could find about my chosen field as I possibly could. I watched Star Trek, read Isaac Asimov, researched space in Encyclopedias, and learned as much as I could about NASA. Many of my research papers for school had something to do with Space; I’ve written about Werner von Braun and the Russian Space Program. I got my own telescope for my birthday, and I started to find fascinating objects in the night sky.

I had begun researching space careers. Astronaut, astronomer, rocket scientist, and astrophysicist - I had so many choices. I gradually learned that some of these fields were not for me. I realized very soon into my explorations of space that I didn’t want to be an astronaut. However, I do want to build rockets, I want to work at mission control, and be in charge of an experiment or project in space. I want to be a part of the very large team of space explorers. Most people I meet never seem to understand this. When they learn of my love for all things in the heavens above, they immediately assume that my goal is to become an astronaut. When I tell them that I don’t actually want to be the one to journey into the beyond, but rather work on the project here below, they get confused or think that I’m a coward. People, it seems, can’t fathom the idea of a space nut who doesn’t want to be an astronaut. Yet, here I am. I dream of adventure, challenges, and marvels. For me, rocketry is the end, or beginning, of all my hopes and dreams.

I continued to attend the Space Center, finally achieving the rank of Fleet Admiral and becoming a member of the Order of the Federation. I also attended Astro Camp in Ogden, Utah and a telescope camp at the Clark Planetarium in Salt Lake City, Utah where I assembled my own telescope (a six inch Dobsonian Orion Telescope). I was able to visit the Marshall Space and Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, and I continued to visit the Clark Planetarium regularly. In all my visits and encounters with people who work with space, I became even more determined to become a rocket scientist myself.

During my secondary education, I took as many math and science classes as I possibly could. I attended the Math Circle at the University of Utah, and mathematics quickly became my best subject. For a brief time, I envisioned myself becoming a math teacher, but after a summer working at a space camp, I knew that my passion is space and that any job in a field not related to the celestial sphere would not be the best choice of career for me. I worked at an amazing place called iWorld’s Simulations, located in Murray, Utah. It was a spin off from the Space Center in Pleasant Grove. I worked closely with the children in the story telling process. The next summer, I attended the Summer Mathematics program for High School Students at the University of Utah. I learned about number theory and cryptography. The summer after I graduated from high school, I worked at Astro Camp. I had an amazing summer where I learned even more about space, because I was teaching it. We also visited many space/aerospace places such as Hill Air Force Base and ATK. We talked to astronauts, designed amusement parks, and ran simulators where the kids got to experience what it would be like to be an astronaut. Now heading into college, I know that Space is my future.

I know that I am going to touch the heavens one day. I want to work on the Constellation Program established by NASA. I want to design a rocket so powerful and awesome that when I look at it, I simply say, “Wow.” I want to be a part of an effort to colonize the moon, and eventually travel there myself to continue working on rocketry from a new perspective. My life focuses on space, and this highlight and obsession brings me great joy.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

One of Life's Little Secrets. Perhaps What Einstien was looking for. The One Natural Law that Governs all Others.

Hello Troops,
What you see here are the Two Rings that Rule Them All. I challenge you to become the Lord of these Rings. This Challenge will take you to far away places as you overcome enormous obstacles in your quest to see your dreams fulfilled. And in that final and last Goodnight, you'll rest knowing you did everything you could to make the world a better place because you were here.

Now, Go Take on the Day. And while you're doing that I've got two classes of Space Knights soon to arrive on yellow steeds to take on the Evil and Dark Lord Chancellor of New Earth.

Mr. Williamson

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Space Center News.

Mission Calls.
I’m happy to report the following mission calls.
1. Bradyn Lystrup (Current Voyager Flight Director) received a call to serve an LDS mission to Boston.
2. Taylor Thomas (Galileo Flight Director) received an LDS mission call to the Chile Santiago Mission.
3. Spencer Robinson (Space Center Maintenance) received an LDS mission call to serve in the Macon Georgia Mission.
4. Kevin Roberts (Phoenix Flight Director and Magellan Supervisor) received an LDS mission call to serve in the Independence, MO Mission.

These are four outstanding young men. Congratulations!

Spenser Dauwalder, a Voyager Supervisor, was awarded a $10,000 scholarship from Coca Cola. One of the reasons for receiving the award was his work at the Space Center. Spenser travels to Georgia in two weeks to compete for an additional $20,000 scholarship from Coke.
Spenser has been accepted into Westminster College. He begins his studies in September. He will be leaving the Space Center this summer.

Good Luck Spenser!

A Nigerian Partnership
I received an email this week from a Space School in Nigeria. Their outreach director found us on the internet. He is interested in some form of partnership. He is particularly interested in our simulators. I’ve included the email in this post. I’ve also included a few pictures from their school and program.

Dear Sir/Ma,
I got the link to your site through one of the documents mailed to me by a
friend.After going through your site I saw that The Christa McAuliffe Space Education Center is poised and well positioned to partner with us.

I am a Scientific/Outreach Officer at African Regional Centre for Space Science and Technology Education-English, located inside Obafemi Awolowo University Campus,Ile-ife, Nigeria (ARCSSTE-E is affiliated to the United Nations). We are into capacity building in the area of space science and technology as well as outreach activities for the schools. I am writing to inquire if your centre will be interested to collaborate with us in reaching out to the young ones in the area of space science and technology.
We have been doing this for the past few years and I believe your input based on your numerous experience will further assist us in achieveing our
objectives. I am actually very interested in the simulation aspect of your programmes which I believe must have thrilled your visitors.

As a space enthusiast and a staff of ARCSSTE-E I love to inspire people about space science and its benefits.I interact with young people almost
on daily basis and have found out that the natural tendency explore [the
universe] have been part of all of us.

I have been priviledged to help design instructional materials from locally resourced materials on space science education for students right from primary to the tertiary level. I have also designed and constructed space education kits for students on excursion as well as those that come for workshops and seminars.I also create and use animations to drive home
space points in some of our programmes. I have helped to fabricate mockups (Ariane, Space Shuttle, Galileo satellite, ISRO, astronauts, etc.) and have acted as the curator for our mini space museum.

I believe it is crucial for the children to have the right foundation [in space science and technology] and get it right now hence the need to reach out to them in a proper manner that is globally accepted.

I have included few pictures of some of our centre's activities in the area of space science education outreach, some objects in our space museum as well as a computer generated image of our new space museum (under

Monday, February 22, 2010

Shall We Start the Week Off Right? A Little Something From the Imaginarium

Yes friends, I've finally found the entrance to that place you go to when you aren't being a good boy or girl, when you're not eating your peas and carrots, when you're not brushing your teeth AND most importantly - not turning your homework in on time. You know, THAT place. Didn't have the courage to explore any further. The entrance was enough for me. I think it was the disturbing smells and the faint sounds of ........ unhappiness.

I'm OuT.

Mr. W.

P.S. I'm zeroing in on the OTHER place. Haven't quite gotten there yet. I still have aways to go; 12 KM in fact. A bit leery to continue though. That 'No Exit' is giving me cause for concern. Perhaps I'll walk up to the gates and peer in. You know, check out the landscape. I'll let you know when I get there. Got my lunch packed and a full thermos. My walking shoes are in good shape so...... I'm off.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Leadership Camp Mission Video! Wow this Summer will be Smokin Hot at the Space Center!

Hello Troops,
This is it. The Trailer is released for the new mission under development for this summer's Leadership Camp.
Thanks to everyone on our staff who wrote, filmed, starred, edited and..and... well the staff did the whole thing. Not bad for a bunch of high school students! Yes, the Space Center has the best staff and volunteers in the, I'm going to say GALAXY!

See YOU this summer. Sign up for camp now. Ages 10-14 Overnight Camp, EdVenture Camp, Ultimate Camp, Day Camp. Ages 15-17 Leadership Camp.

Go to

Mr. Williamson

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Room With a View

Astronauts in the Tranquility module can now use the cupola as an Earth Observatory, with the best views from anywhere on the ISS. This will no doubt be the favorite "hang-out" on the station during off hours.

While the astronauts on the ISS have a great vision, NASA still does not. Arguments among congressmen, NASA employees, and space supporters continue 'round the clock debating the wisdom/lack of vision for the new directives from the White House.

During a call to the 11 astronauts in the ISS today from the White House, President Obama had the gall to say that "he is proud and excited about the work being done on the space station and told the crew that he is committed to continuing human space exploration." Some commitment. Cancellation of America's leading role in space, and directing NASA to make an effort to be more inclusive of Islamic countries and spend more research on Global Warming?

This is so sad.

Mark Daymont

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Struggling to Return to the Land of the Living.....

Today I fought and clawed my way back into the world of the living thanks to modern science. I reference my post from this morning when I broke the news of being struck down in the prime of life with the heartbreak of strep throat.

It was Monday evening. I was laying in bed enjoying my nightly dose of British Comedies, laughing at something Rene said in Allo’ Allo’ when a swallow brought pain. The next morning my throat and the Olympic flame in Vancouver had one thing in common - FLAME! I knew that pain. It was the pain all teachers know - Strep Throat! Most likely passed to me from some small human visitor to the Space Center who sneezed in my face or covered his stations with droplets of mucus swimming with the bacteria.

I called my doctor who was kind enough to squeeze me in for a check up. My temperature was 102.5 degrees.
“There’s a nice pus pocket,” he said in reference to one of my tonsils. I nodded. I didn’t need him to tell me my throat was seething in strep.
“Hows your gag reflex?” he asked.
“On a scale of 1 to 10, mine is 15,” I replied. Meaning I start gagging as the cotton swab passes my front teeth. “I’ll be quick about it then,” he replied.

Out came this elongated swab on a wooden stick nearly long enough to be used as a fireplace match. I closed my eyes thinking that if I didn’t see it entering my mouth I wouldn’t start gagging. It was a good strategy. I was find until the cotton came in contact with the pus pocket.
“Sorry, Sorry, Sorry but I need to be sure to get enough,” he explained in believable sympathy.

He put the swab into the autotester, put in a drop or two of some magical liquid and, as if by magic, a red + appeared in the window. I left with a prescription of some form of penicillin I couldn’t pronounce but was gratefully for nevertheless. I didn’t spare the gasoline as I raced to Smith RX in Pleasant Grove to fill the prescription. I couldn’t get that first pill into my mouth fast enough.

Now, a confession of my stupidity. I had this strange delusion that once that adsuthflwohgjriuieoeillin (or whatever it was) entered my blood stream those little strep bacteria would sound a full scale retreat. I sat in my car waiting for relief. I drove back to the school, worked on a few things, drove home and still nothing. I wondered if Smith’s Drug had pawned a bad batch of the stuff on to me. Either that or my medicine was years past its sell by date.

I woke up Wednesday morning feeling just as bad. Then the worry set in. I just knew, using my imagination as proof, that my doctor had misdiagnosed my infection. Instead of strep, I convinced myself I had that flesh eating staff infection that kills in a day or two. It had taken root in my tonsils and was in conference, planning a break into the main artery that supplied my brain with blood. I could almost hear the oooAhhhh’s from the little marine bacteria as they gathered along the artery wall, waiting for the breech and invasion. Yes, all of this was passing through my mind as I sat at the Kitchen bar struggling to swallow spoonfuls of cottage cheese.

I continued to take my dkgjrufkdlmvnfjejecillin and went to work. All day I waited to hear the faint sound of a bugle as millions those little staffs got the order to “ATTACK”. Strangely enough, around 6:00 P.M. I started feeling a bit better. I was able to eat a semi normal supper of soup and ice cream. At bed time I felt good enough to laugh at Rene in Allo’ Allo’, my 10:30 P.M. nightly stop on Channel 7.

This morning found me feeling somewhat better. The fever is gone but my throat still hurts like the dickens. The good news is that I’m getting a bit better as each day passes.

I want to thank the staff of the Space Center for being kind enough to help me work through this illness. I’ve not taken a sick day in all my 27 years of teaching school. The reason is simple. During my actual teaching years taking a sick day was more painful than coming in not feeling well. You should try planning for a sub. You wouldn’t like it either. And, to be honest, I was always lucky enough not get ill enough to required absolute bed rest.

So, why don’t I take a sick day today? I’m not teaching school any longer. Well, If I take a sick day, then we have to cancel a field trip. Can you imagine calling a teacher and telling her that her field trip was canceled - on the morning of the trip!?
She’s standing there with her kids bouncing off the ceiling in excitement, lunches are delivered from the cafeteria and everything is set to go and suddenly its called off. Where will I put her? Every day on the calendar is booked with field trips. Those two classes would be out for the year! That is something I can’t do.

The solution is to train our younger flight directors to run the daytime field trip missions so I have someone that can fill in for me. Believe me, I’m working on that. That is a story for another post.

Anyway, I’m feeling somewhat better and happy to see everyone again. Please do me a favor though. When you come in to work, volunteer or go on a mission sometime during the next day or two, please do not step away from me in horror. I may look like warmed over death but doesn’t that sum up my appearance most days?

Mr. Williamson

The History of the World in 3 Minutes

Hello Troops,
Strep Throat has got me down. Hopefully I'll be back to 100% in a day or two. Until then I ask the staff and volunteers to be understanding and the campers to be kind. Until I'm feeling up to writing more I share this with you. Watch this and never have to take a history class again :)

Mr. W.

P.S. the creator says it was all done with a pen and 21000 pages in a flip book! Now that IS having too much time on your hands.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Troubadours Gathered for a Parchment's Reading. Illness Strikes One of Our Own

Life Outside the Castle Walls Where Our Band of Troubadours Winter

I sat in a large oak chair surrounded by our troupe of Troubadours called from their rehearsals to hear news from the north. Once gathered I begged attention and spoke.

"My Friends, sickness has been our companion these past few weeks. We all remember our Sainted Sheila once stood on death's door." Lady Sheila stood from her chair to acknowledge my words. She nodded in appreciation to her fellow Troubadours for their visits, prayers and the candles lit in the Castle's chapel for her recovery.

"Are we not glad she is with us and in good spirits? How fortunate we are the door did not open. Our Lady Lorraine, again here present, still recovers from a terrible undeserved blight but assures me, and all assembled, that she is better each and ever day. I fear Misfortune has called upon us and found a home. The proof of which came in a parchment delivered on the Friday."

I cleared my throat to continue to speak. A few of our younger Troubadours, having forgotten their manners, were quickly silenced by Lady Brittney so I could continue.

"Master Bracken has taken to his bed in the village of Logan four days by carriage to the north. This news came by his own hand, written on parchment, and delivered to the castle by a herald, sleepless these past two nights. The parchment is written in Master Bracken's own hand, shaken I can see from pain."

I stopped talking to try to read Bracken's marks. It became apparent I couldn't. I needed more light than the Great Hall's fire could provide. "Let us all vacate the Hall for the intimacy and natural sun light in the library," I suggested. All stood, exited the Hall, and ascended the stone staircase to the warm library above.

Once seated, our band of wintering Troubadours fell silent about me as I read Master Bracken's own words:
I awoke with great pain radiating from my lower side giving such discomfort as to cause me to sound an alarm. A doctor was presently called. His lateness in arriving due was the fault of a peasant suffering from a similar complaint. My suffering steadily increased as I awaited the physician. My Grandmother administered herbs. They took no effect. I thought of using spirits but thought the better of it not knowing how it would affect my condition. To occupy my mind I took quill and parchment to write this letter. I stop now, the physician has arrived.
I stopped reading. The sun’s disk was being consumed by the far away hills. Lady Lorraine lit a candle and held it close so I could continue.
“Oh do proceed,” Lady Emily commanded. It is true she and Bracken were good friends and masters of our trade.
“Yes, please do,” Lady Stacy added from behind the younger members of our troupe who sat on the stone floor before me.
“I shall presently continue once my failing eyes grow accustom to the light,” I said.

“Tis a wonder he has eyesight at all considering his advanced age,” spoke Master Merryweather just out of arms reach to my left.
“Yes, tis true Master Spencer but pray you not forget your desire for payment from the Nobleman’s purse. Your apprenticeship is nearing completion. Statements such as the one just spoken might give me pause in offering a recommendation on your behalf.”
“I beg forgiveness,” the young master quickly added.
“Shall we continue?” I inquired, to which all spoke to the affirmative.
The physician bid adieu after bleeding me from my right foot. The pain, he testifies, is the result of bad blood, come from my long journey’s from the Castle to this village. I am under orders to remain until well enough to travel. I send this news by noble herald in hopes of receiving a parchment in return to cheer my dark mood. Yours in Service. Bracken.
I folded the parchment as all stood to depart to their rooms and continued rehearsals for our travelling summer season soon to start before the summer solstice.

“Wait,” I said. My words startled Master Zac, causing him to stumble over the outstretched legs of young Master Luis who had fallen asleep during the reading. “I beg your pardon but I've forgotten other news. Presently return and pray I don't forget my head on the morrow.”

Our troupe reassembled. Once settled, I turned their attention to Master Bradyn.
“Master Bradyn received a letter from the Lord Bishop Commanding him to leave our troupe in April. He will be taking Holy Orders and joining a band of travelling Friars for the northern city of Boston. I’m sure all will join me in applause for our fellow Troubadour as he prepares to embark on this service to the Lord’s children.”
On my command all stood, young and old alike, to applaud Master Bradyn’s righteous desires. Master Braydn jumped to the top of a nearby oak table and bowed deeply as if stood before the Lord of the Manor himself.
“Now return to your rehearsals," I said in dismissing the gathering. "Light your fires for the night grows cold. A runner will summon you for dinner in the cookhouse. Tonight we feast on rabbit and bread. I shall see you all presently.”

The room emptied. I remained to stand by the large window overlooking the castle’s courtyard. Twilight blew the shadows away leaving an increasing darkness in their wake. It would be night soon, then supper and bed. The sabbath dawns on the morrow.

V. Williamson

Saturday, February 13, 2010

212 Degrees. The Diffence of One Degree.

Hello Troops,
I'd like to share something I found on a web site I frequent called "Simple Truths". ( Please read on. You'll find what you read enlightening. I urge you to think about that one degree of difference that will always separate the good from the great.

One Degree of Separation
At 211 degrees, water is hot.
At 212 degrees, water boils and with boiling comes steam. Steam can power a locomotive. One extra degree makes all the difference.

And, the one extra degree of difference in business and life separates the good from the great!

The average margin of victory for the least 25 years in all major golf tournaments combined was less than three strokes. The margin for victory between an Olympic Gold Medal and no medal at all is extremely small. In the 2004 Mens 800m race the margin of victory was .71 seconds.

At the Indy 500, the average margin for victory for the past 10 years has been 1.54 seconds. On average the winner took home $1,278, 813. The second place prize was $621,321. A difference of $657,492!

It’s your life. You are responsible for your results. It’s time to turn up the Heat!
To get what we’ve never had we must do what we’ve never done.

You are now aware. You now have a target for everything you do. 212 degrees! Turn up the heat.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Science Test. What could naturally Push this button?

Hello Troops,
Send in your answers with proof this happened before and could happen again. You'll get your information listed below.

  • (Mr. Williamson). An Asteroid Hit. Large collisions—with five kilometer objects—happen approximately once every ten million years. The last known impact of an object of 10 km or more in diameter was at the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event 65 million years ago.
  • (Alex A). The Black Plague. Decimated Europe in only two years. Anywhere from 30 - 60 percent of the population was infected. It caused religious, social, and economic upheavals. Historians estimate it took 150 years for Europe to recover fully.
  • (Jaden F) Noah's Ark! You know, that huge flood waaaaaaaay back in the day, when Noah had to build an ark. =D Pretty good, eh? ;)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Life, the Universe, & Everything, a Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy at BYU.

I'll be signing books this Saturday at 1 pm at the BYU Bookstore along with Brandon Mull, Brandon Sanderson, Howard Tayler, Eric James Stone, Berin Stephens, Jake Black, Roger White, Lisa Mangum, Mette Ivie Harrison, and John Brown. This is part of Life, the Universe, & Everything, a Symposium on Science Fiction and Fantasy. The event runs Thursday - Saturday from 9 am until 9 pm. It's FREE to attend. Come listen to panels and presentations on everything sci-fi and fantasy!

Aleta Clegg, writing as Jaleta Clegg

How Quickly Technology Changes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Magic of the Space Center

The Magic of the Space Center
Bracken Funk
Space Center Flight Director

I remember the first time I walked through the doors of the center. It was for an overnight camp. I wasn't entirely sure what I was getting into, but I knew what it was supposed to be. It was an experience unlike any other, I knew that. All of the 6th graders had been talking about it for quite some time. I waited in anticipation outside of the front doors. It was early October, not too bad as far as weather goes; a soft breeze grazed our already excitement induced neck hairs as we waited, something similar to how Charlie felt outside of the chocolate factory I'm sure, for the front doors to be opened, and for us to be allowed in.

I stepped through the front doors, and though consciously I knew that those doors were the doors to a school, my imagination took over once inside. I'd always been a Star Trek fan, and because of that, this experience to me was even more exciting than I thought it would be- the hallways of the school became a Federation Starbase. To me, it was real. I suppose I've always been that way though. Even through the 8th grade I would play out on my trap with my lightsaber, yelling at the invisible foe, most of the time playing all of the lead roles in my imaginary play, including the foe. I think that I am just able to create my surroundings the way I want them to be, and block out what I don't want to see, or hear very well. But that school, the minute I walked through the front doors really did transform. That was only the first time I visited.

That time I was put in the Magellan, back in the good old days of Ryan Billings in the Magellan. He was indeed a masterful story teller. I was the Chief of Security. I remember well imagining where my security officers were going, and I remember imagining Monty, our chief engineer as this jovial fat Aussie, who was a brilliant mind, but not so coordinated. He seemed willing to help, but too busy with the engineering problems to get in our business; but I felt like I knew him before I left.

I came back many times as a young lad, I came because I loved the idea of being a Federation officer. I came because I loved knowing that I was something bigger than myself while I was there. I came because the staff were fun to be around. In my overzealosity (yes, a newly invented Bracken word- it actually came about while I was flying Greenpeace speaking as the John Talbot impersonator), I was quite annoying; but I had good intentions.

But still, to this day, as a 20 year old who still loves the place, I walk through those front doors, and even though I know that I'm in a school, I can't see it. I see a Federation Starbase, and the simulators are still real to me. There is still this magic there when I walk up to the Voyager bridge, or sit down in the Phoenix captain's chair, or open the hatch to the Galileo, or crawl into the Odyssey's engineering hatch, or hear alarms from the Magellan. I don't know why, but the wonder that the Space Center put into the mind of a child, has grown with him and is now cherished much.

So those of you who continue to come to our camps. Remember that. Our job is to give you the means whereby you could entertain yourselves, and then, using your imagination, you create the scenes. You create the outcome. You create the level of involvement you have. You create the characters in your minds, and you live out your own story with them. It's all about what you put into it.

One of the greatest philosophies known to men is the fact that we get out whatever we put in to something. I know for a fact that the Space Center is no different. There is a magic there no matter what you come with. But the more you put in, the more you come away with, the more fun you will have, the more memories you will take with you. I've seen it in thousands of children as they've left my simulator. I have seen it in hundreds of adults as they leave as well.

So remember the magic those front doors contain, and remember that it's you that puts it there.

Bracken Funk

Monday, February 8, 2010

A Moment for Deep Thinking.....

Hello Troops,
It's nearly 6:00 P.M. on Monday. The Voyager mission is in full bloom. The Odyssey crew is still alive (barely) and the Phoenix just ended. Alex is leaving, backpack on shoulder. We are getting ready to close the Space Center for another day.

An Accurate Representation of My Saturday Evenings

I think back a few days to last Saturday. I leave here every Saturday evening at 6:00 P.M. with all the Space Center work done. All emails are answered, all phone calls are returned and all financials are documented. The staff are managed and everything is in its place. I walk out the door into the night knowing the Center is all wrapped up for the week and tied with a pretty red bow. I drive home satisfied that a long week's work is done. There is contentment in that thought (as anyone knows when a job is done right).

A few sun ups and downs later and I'm returning to work to start a new week. I sincerely believe I'll just waltz into the Space Center and find it just like I left it; I'll come through the school's doors, untie the red bow, remove the wrapping and have nothing to do but start up the Voyager and get things ready for the soon to arrive field trip.

And that's when reality and fantasy seperate!

Monday's make my head spin. I walk in hearing the phone ringing - sometimes non stop. I turn on my computer and see a screen full of emails, all needing attention. The answering machine is blinking messages and students are in and out with volunteer questions and math problems.

Today, the phone rang. It was one of my staff telling me she was in the process of vomiting up everything she'd eaten in the last three months and could she have the day off.

An Accurate Representation of my Monday Mornings

That's when I hunker down, roll up the sleeves, grit my teeth and multitask. I'm on the phone in mid email response writing in the reservation book while pointing a student to a chair and miming for them to take their math book out and be ready to show me the problem. I know that if I keep this up, every day, another Saturday evening will roll around and everything will be neatly packaged and put on the shelve leaving me to enjoy my one day off a week - My blessed Sunday.

It's 6:07 P.M. I've just finished dealing with all the Monday issues (and that's after Aleta, our office assistant spent several hours dealing with other things!) I'm getting ready to go home feeling somewhat content things are well wrapped - for the moment.

So, this is where we have a bit fun. Its time to think about something completely different. Ready to join me? OK, here are your deep thoughts for the night. Enjoy, have a laugh and let's ride this planet as its rotates into Tuesday with a smile on our faces.

Mr. Williamson

Deep Thoughts

1. Save the whales. Collect the whole set.
2. A day without sunshine is like. Night.
3. On the other hand, you have different fingers.
4. 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot.
5. 99 percent of lawyers give the rest a bad name.
6. Remember, half the people you know are below average.
7. He who laughs last thinks slowest.
8. Depression is merely anger without enthusiasm.
9. The early bird may get the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese in the trap.
10. Support bacteria. They're the only culture some people have.
11. A clear conscience is usually the sign of a bad memory.
12. Change is inevitable, except from vending machines.
13. If you think nobody cares, try missing a couple of payments.
14. How many of you believe in psycho-kinesis? Raise my hand.
15. OK, so what's the speed of dark?
16. When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
17. Hard work pays off in the future. Laziness pays off now.
18. Every one has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film.
19. How much deeper would the ocean be without sponges?
20. Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines.
21. What happens if you get scared half to death twice?
22. I couldn't repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.
23. Why do psychics have to ask you for your name?
24. Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.
25. Just remember -- if the world didn't suck, we would all fall off.
26. Light travels faster than sound. That's why some people appear bright until you hear them speak.
27. Life isn't like a box of chocolates . . . it's more like a jar of jalapenos. What you do today, might burn you tomorrow.

28. The above is probably enough for now.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Trailor for the Phoenix's Upcoming Summer Camp Mission. The Razor Plan

Sign Up for Summer Camp 2010 and do the Phoenix's New Mission, The Razor Plan.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Our Campers Say the Darnest Things......

Hello Troops,
Campers are surveyed at the end of every Overnight Camp. The staff and volunteers gather after the campers return to reality to review their comments and award points to the simulators and people that score the highest on the satisfaction indexes.

One section of the flyer gives campers the opportunity to provide feedback in written form. Here are a few of the many comments we received on this last camp. Please be advised that the interesting spelling is the author's and not mine:

“My Favorite part of the mission was the very beginning, running through and halls.”
This is a typical comment- the kind that has us scratching our heads. Kids come to the Space Center because of the simulators and when they get here all they want to do is get out of the ships for Away Teams and Landing Parties. First they want in the ships and then they want out! Go figure that one out.
“I think you can make the Space Center better by building an addition and make more awesome simulators. And make the computers touch screens.
Sure, an awesome idea. That will be the first thing on my agenda, building another addition to the school. I’ll need some of Obama’s Stimulus money for that because it ain’t gonna come from anywhere else.
“I think you can make the Space Center better by building a Romulan
OK, someone help me on this one. How do we go about building a Romulan?
“I think the best part of my mission was saving my crew!”
Aaahhhhhh. Sweet. Get’s you right in the gut doesn’t it?
“I like that everything at the Space Center felt real like Star Trek”
Felt real, like Star Trek? This kids needs to get out more often.
Just Kidding :)
“I think that when the aliens shoot you with the phasers it should feel like you really got shot. Also, make some planets to land on.”
Yes, I finally find someone as warped as me. Wouldn’t you love to go to a place where you can be shot by a fake phaser that does no real damage yet feels like you were skewered with a stream of volcanic plasma? As for building a planet to land on, I've got to first remember my Calculus for planetary orbit before even considering the trillions of possible DNA competitions for life forms!
“I like beating the mission flawlessly.”
Flawlessly? Excellent vocabulary for a 6th grader. Defiantly not what you’d hear from some of the students I’ve worked with in the past. “Teacher, I gone and done that there thing without a hiccup.”
"I hated the crazy wake up music.”
Tough because I picked it out last weekend. :)
“I liked blowing up a lot of bad guys.”
That’s what they are there for - blowing up.
And today’s best answer to the question, “What was the funnest thing about your overnight camp?”
Response from an 11 year old girl. “My Farting in the gym.”
Classic, just classic. We go to all this trouble putting together the best program we can using our million dollar facility and what does this student say about our efforts?
“Farting in the gym?!” I’ll tell my staff of 25 that their efforts were well appreciated

Sheeeeezzzze. Some Respect Please :)

Thanks Troops for Reading and Thanks for Coming to the Space Center.

Mr. Williamson

Friday, February 5, 2010

Is This the End of the American Manned Space Program?

The Dream that was Constellation

It is now official. Yesterday's release of the 2011 budget has finally laid bare what the Obama administration has in mind for the future of American Manned Spaceflight.

It's over.

Despite his campaign promises, the President has directed the elimination of the Constellation program that aimed to replace the ending space shuttle program and return Americans to exploring the lunar surface. No more Ares-1, which was to be our country's transportation to low-Earth orbit once the shuttle is gone. No more Ares-5, the future heavy lift vehicle that would take astronauts and equipment to the Moon and launch heavy equipment to orbit. No more Altair lunar lander, which would take not two but four astronauts to the Moon's surface. No more Orion command capsule, designed to hold 4-6 astronauts depending on mission type.

Instead, Americans must beg for rides to the International Space Station on a Russian spacecraft. The cost of that ride jumped suddenly this week from 40 million per seat to 50+ million per seat. Don't ever think the Russians don't know how to profit from demand.

The White House, and the NASA administration, is spinning this disaster as a "Bold, Fresh Approach" when it is nothing of the sort. Although NASA's budget is being given a small increase, it is at the cost of America's space leadership. Claiming the necessity of needing to carefully trim budgets at a time of fiscal emergency, the administration continues to spend HUNDREDS of billions on pet political paybacks when NASA is being starved of the funds that it needed to meet the obligations placed on it. Claiming that the new NASA direction will bring in new jobs and technologies seems very hollow as NASA prepares to lay off 7,000 employees with the ending of the shuttle program. ATK here in Utah ponders the terrible news, having just laid off hundreds of people, it now looks at the cancellation of a major part of its production.

Currently there are members of Congress claiming outrage and indignation at this turn of events, but there is probably little that they can do. All that is left is for us to look at possibly the only ray of light in the new direction, which is the granting of several billions of dollars over the next four years to commercial space projects in the vague hope that they may be able to save American pride, jobs and space leadership.

Over the next month I'll be looking at each major part of the new directives and making my own decision on whether it bodes ill or good. While we wait to see how Congress and the Space COmmunity react, consider this as well: Obama is directing that a major directional shift for NASA will be to embrace the study of Global Warming.

Heaven help us.

Mr. Daymont
Magellan Flight Director
Space Center Educator

More from the Imaginarium.

This is a necessary form to survive your teenage years. It is good for adulthood too. Preteens, I don't think you need this. You younglings can get away with bad behavior by looking guilty and springing a tear or two. Supplement the guilt and tears with a quivering lower lip and forgiveness is a given. Those tactics loose their effectiveness the older you get.

This form shows originality and is cleverly written. I give it a 3 out of 5 on the Imaginatization Index.

Mr. W.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

More from the Imaginarium. Star Wars vs. Star Trek. Is There any Question?

Here at the Imaginarium we honor advances in Imagination and cleverness. Here is a good example of taking a standard, universal theme and doing something different with it. I give it 4 out of 5 stars on the Imaginizational Index (clever huh?) Mr W.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Space Center's Staff Cars. A Contest

Think of the staff at the Space Center. Now look at this picture. Who's car is this? Send your guess and reasons by email. All winning entries will be placed in a Little Caesar's pizza box where one winning entry will be drawn after the OV camp on Saturday. The winner will receive a $10 WalMart Gift card from Me. By the way, I'm the judge.

Good Luck,
Mr. Williamson

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

A Thought for the Day. Few Words but Powerful Meaning

"I don't know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."
Albert Einstein

Space News. Iapetus, that Crazy Moon of Saturn

Saturn's icy moon Iapetus has long baffled scientists with its unusual walnut shape.
Now a team of researchers says they have an explanation: The satellite's surface froze during its infancy, locking the moon's shape at a time when it was spinning much faster than it is now. Today, Iapetus is 20 miles (33 kilometers) wider at the equator than the poles. Normally, that kind of distortion happens only if a moon is spinning rapidly, like a figure skater in a tight spin. But an Iapetus day is nearly 80 Earth days long, though it was once much shorter.
"You would expect a very fast-spinning moon to have this bulge, but not a slow-spinning moon," Dennis Matson, a scientist with NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini mission, said in a statement.

In a paper published in the online version of the journal Icarus, a team led by Julie Castillo of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory has finally found an explanation for the moon's odd shape. Short-lived radioactive elements, such as aluminum-26 and iron-60, could have provided enough heat to keep the moon's interior warm and squishy during its infancy. This would have allowed the exterior to freeze solid, forcing the moon to keep its early shape even as its spin reduced and gravity tried to pull it into a sphere.

"Iapetus spun fast, froze young, and left behind a body with lasting curves," Castillo said in a statement.

Keep Current on Space!

Sheila Powell

Space Center Educator

New Products from the Imaginarium.